Friday, November 03, 2006

How I found myself @ Princeton and ended up getting inspired to write another BLOG!!!

Its funny, I never expected to be going to Princeton on Friday (the 27th of October) - I kinda dont like socialising much anymore. And going to places like Princeton means you get to meet a whole shit-load of people whom you don't really like or just about know (amongst many many others fucktards over there) - and u have this plastic grin on your face... god, hurts my cheeks so much!!

Anyway, I'd gone to attend the recording session of Cassini's Division after a long hard day @ office. But my luck being what it generally is - they had already finished that day's load. I had no intention of going home - so instead I suggested to the band members, "Why dont we go over to Princeton and check out this up and coming band CAMOFLAUGE?"

So I find myself @ Princeton with John, Rahul and Sookie. Thought it would be a nice evening with the guys... of course initially it kind've started off badly with the management not letting Sookie in becoz he was wearing sandals and John, becoz he was wearing a whatchamacallit... a 3 quarters!!

The guys had supposedly heard CAMOFLAUGE before (I thinked they had judged them @ a rock competition... not too sure about the details)

Not me however - the 1st time I had even heard of this band was when they had posted a snippet in orkut about them playing @ Princeton. And I of course didn't know any of the band members at all. Hell I didnt even know they were a 5 piece band or the kind've music they played.

Anyway, enuff banter - long intro, sorry. The show. Ya... well in a nutshell, CAMOFLAUGE that night were interesting. I wont say they were excellent. I wont say they were horrible. They were interesting. And that is the truth.

In today's rock music scene there are waaaay too many bands that play covers. I dont like cover bands... no wait, let me rephrase that - I HATE COVER BANDS. A rock band in my opinion has no future if they keep on trying to please the crowd with covers. And the worst part of the music scene here is that rock bands are too busy being worried abt the HERE and the NOW, instead of worrying abt how they should develop themsleves musically. And in the process most rock bands end up becoming cover bands... and they also end up playing the same covers again and again. You go to Someplace Else - covers. You go to a rock fest, a different band, but they're playing the same covers too. And you come down to Princeton - the band on stage again dish out the same old stuff.

But I was glad to see that CAMOFLAUGE did NOT fall under that category. If they did I probably would have left after 2 or 3 songs. Thank god for that.

I'll start off with what I liked about them. Their originals. They were very very well composed. Especially "Recycled". And I liked "Slime" as well. They actually rocked far more than the covers they played. Some of the covers really sucked - but the moment they played their originals you could see the glow on their faces. And their instruments actually seemed like they were putty in their hands. If anything else, I believe this band has a future as an original band - I dont know exactly how to categorise their genre - its kind of British alternative (Coldplay Radiohead U2 which I think is their sound. I dont know what the band think personally however - maybe they want to play some other genre of music, who knows! But from what I heard of their originals, the British alternative sound really suited them a lot. I pray that they dont get frustrated and start trying to please the crowd with covers. That would be very sad.

The covers. Hmm. I will be honest here. In today's music scene there are certain classic bands whose songs get played by every Tom, Dick and Harry. I wont mention any names - and unfortunately I did not enjoy my evening when CAMOFLAUGE played those songs. I mean I know that playing a cover note for note is extremely difficult especially if it is a classic rock song. And I laud the efforts of our up and coming bands who try to do so. But frankly, for a purist like me - if u cant emulate the artist whose song you're covering, then what is the point in covering that song at all. It kind of makes it a dumb effort by my standards. And please dont get fooled by the crowd reaction - most of them are para pals and relatives and old school mates anyway. They'd clap if u farted. I'm a neutral here - and I am being as unbiased as possible.

But then again (after all my incessant rambling above) some of the covers were pretty nice as well. Especially U2's Vertigo. CAMOFLAUGE as a band is more fun when they play covers which are by nature lively. I dont think slow ballads are their forte.

Anyway - I couldnt stay for the whole show which was unfortunate, becoz I really wanted to stay back and find what else they had in their repertoire. Well maybe next time. And maybe they'll have more originals to play. That would be awesome.

About the band - well I wont be too harsh after seeing just one show, that wouldnt be fair at all. The drums and keyboards were cool. And the guitars and bass as well actually. The band members are still young so they have loads of time on their hand to polish up their act. The vocals too - not bad, but the vocalist must realise which songs he can and cannot sing. I'd be lying if I said that he was good in all the songs...

Anyway, the bottom line is that CAMOFLAUGE are a good band and they have promise. I dont have any right to dictate the kind of music they play or dictate their approach as a band towards music in general. It definitely would not be fair on them - and anyway, I do confess its more easier to talk the shop than actually getting up on stage and performing.

So all I'd like to say is that it would be wonderful if Camoflauge as a band slowly starts to concentrate on their original act. On more well composed original songs like "Recycled". And on concentrating on one particular genre or 2 and not trying to be a jack of all genres and a master of none. Becoz I saw something in their performance that Friday night which made me feel that this band weren't a pack of jokers trying to kill time in a part-time band or impress the ladies. These guys were here to play music. Period. And I have a feeling they can achieve success with a little bit of luck and application.

I wish the band success in their future endeavours. And I stand by what I say - these guys will surely make it.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Insomnia - PROLOY'er SOMOY'e... and what do I think about their album?

I don’t enjoy listening to bangla rock as a rule.

Maybe its becoz I aint a Bengali. Maybe its becoz I like listening to rock in its purest form – A.K.A., when it’s sung in English.

Having said that, I have heard most of the popular Bengali bands around. Some of them sing the odd song that I enjoy listening to, but on the whole – well, I really can’t stand them. Barring LOKKHICHHARA and the old original KROSSWINDZ line up that is.

So when INSOMNIA came out with their album I wasn’t peeing my pants wet with excitement. Their 1st album was in English and I was really hoping that this one would have been composed in English as well.
But yes, I was extremely happy for them though, becoz I know a few of the band members and I wanted to lend them my support by buying their album – its Rs. 99/- bucks after all. Very cheap (cheaper than the stuff I drink @ SOMEPLACE ELSE generally!!!)
They could have sung their album in Bhojpuri for all I care, and I would have still bought the album!

Souvik had sent me a sample of Adharm’er Shaar some months back, yes it wasn't like I had nothing to look forward too - the song was very alternative and nu-metalish, almost a RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE clone. Which was a surprise becoz having seen INSOMNIA and CRYSTAL GRASS (the INSOMNIA off-shoot @ SPE) perform live here and there, I kinda had the impression that their influences were mainly PINK FLOYD and classic and prog rock, with sprinklings of modern rock here and there.

So to the album PROLOY’er SOMOY’e

Question: Did I like it?
Answer: You bet I did! Liked it would be an under-statement – I loved it!

From whatever little comments I’ve read about this album from the fans online, INSOMNIA’s new baby is supposed to revolutionized the modern Bengali rock music sound... well, I don’t know about that, since as I mentioned before, I ain’t no expert in this genre.

But personally any album that has managed to stay put in my CD player over a week is a good album by my standards. And that has been the case with PROLOY’er SOMOY’e! For the 1st time in my existence on this planet i have not only listened to a bengali rock album not ionce, not twice - but non-stop for the past 1 week. And I still see no signs of getting tired of it.

The songs. Okay. Well for fans of nu-metal, modern rock and alternative music, this album has something for you. All of the songs on this album have elements of these genres. And it’s worthwhile to note that these songs provide a variety which kind of keeps the pace of the album very even. None of the songs sound the same - so for the fickle-minded music listener, I doubt that you’ll get bogged down after listening to a few songs.

The songs can easily be divided into 2 categories – the heavy and the not-so-heavy.
The Heavy: Proloy’er Somoy’e, Aartonaad, Poth'e Ghaat'e Nekreh Kaateh, Odhorm’er Shaar.
The Not-So-Heavy: Shunyo, Nishhaash, Haat Dhoreh, Akaash Chowaa, Opekhha.

The Heavy – The funny thing is that I could actually pin-point specifically the influences for most of the songs. For instance:

Proloy’er Somoy’e: The opening bars were so P.O.D. – in fact the guitar intro had Youth Of The Nation written all over it. A really good song, becoz once the initial P.O.D. phase gets over the band ups the ante and takes the song into overdrive. An excellent track to kick off the album with. And my 2nd best favourite amongst the 9.

Aartonaad: In this case it was AUDIOSLAVE’s “Cochise” and a bit of RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE, which is not suprising since AUDIOSLAVE after all is an off-shoot of RATM. A good heavy feel to this song as well. The AUDIOSLAVE sound kind of persisted a bit too long for my liking but once again the heaviness of the song made for really good listening. The layers on this song – very structured indeed I must say. And it was an absolute delight to hear BODHI’s guitar-playing here.

Odhorm’er Shaar: Okay, it took me some time to identify the main influence for this song, but I am positive it is RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE’s Born Of A Broken Man. Actually this song had the most nu-metal influences amongst all the heavy tracks. It was almost like I was listening to RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE in Bengali (without the rapping part though).
And not suprising since INSOMNIA after all do mention in their album that it is a tribute to RATM.
The last song of the album and an awesome way to close it. Very raw and heavy feel. Nice guitar solo in the middle of the song as well.

Poth’e Ghat’e Nekreh Kaateh: I’m stumped – can’t actually say what specifically influenced this song. But whatever, another very loud bone-crunching ditty – and that’s all I really care about here. Supposedly about call centers. Ah well, one listen to this is sure to induce insomnia amongst all those call center employees who have to stay up the entire night working. Rocking song.
But if I may say so – it was probably the most mainstream amongst the 4 heavy songs in this album. Which is my way of saying that it is a good song but the other 3 (mentioned above) had that extra element of heaviness which made them so much more interesting. But regardless, a good song nevertheless.

I have to mention that NINNAI did a very good job with the vocals. He definitely has the vocal range to carry off a heavy song, and it was a pleasure to hear him growling and screeching as would do any good metal singer. If INSOMNIA do wish to compose an entirely heavy album in the future, then they have a vocalist to deliver them the goods for sure.

The Not-So-Heavy – Well the rest of the songs weren’t bone-crunching heavy, and as I mentioned previously, the remaining 5 tunes were a mix of modern rock, power ballads and a bit of British alternative. A mixed bag if you will.
The 1st time I heard the album I was surprised that there were any slow songs at all, becoz I initially was under the impression that the entire album would be of the ear-shattering variety. But after a few listens, no complaints. I actually like the feel of the album better this way.

Shunyo: I could be mistaken, but I did feel a bit of the COLDPLAY influence here. And a bit of BETTER THAN EZRA (an American alternative group – if you’ve heard their song Closer then you’ll know what I’m talking about!) The song’s opening was very cool. I liked it. Nothing very flashy or anything but it had a nice earthy feel to it. A nice ballad – should go down very well with the romantically inclined. On the whole, a very neat and uncomplicated song.

Nishhaash: Oh man, off the top of my head – COLLECTIVE SOUL? The intro was classic COLLECTIVE SOUL. Again, another nice ballsy ballad type of song, but as do most of the songs on this album, a very different feel altogether.

Haat Dhoreh: I never really thought SOUVIK’s vocals would do a good job with the slow songs. Both here and in Shunyo, the feeling he provides to these song over-all were just amazing to listen to. Again, as I mentioned above – another slow song, and the music and vocals blend together beautifully to lend it this very emotional feel – the ladies should love this song for sure.

Akaash Chowaa: AUDIOSLAVE again? Maybe I’m wrong – but the intro did sound so. Very touching song – the entire mood had this depressing feel about it which was really cool. In fact at times I thought I could hear a bit of NIRVANA’s Lithium swimming through my head. I mean, not the tune, the feel of the song... There, I said it – this song is the parallel of Lithium in this style of music. What? You don’t agree? Well listen to it a few more times and tell me what you feel then.

Opekhha: I wonder. I never expected this song to be my favourite amongst all the songs on this album. Under normal circumstances it should have been one of the 4 heavy songs. But no, Opekhha wins the crown after hours of continuous listening. COLDPLAY influence? You bet my ass yes. The closing section of the song has similarities to Yellow.
The song overall? Awesome. Absolutely brilliant. You could actually feel DODO’s angst while the song flowed. The angst and passion and frustration. All rolled into one and out it came like a river. The only song in the album where I personally feel that the vocals actually overshadowed the other instruments – and that is saying a lot, becoz in the remaining 8 songs the symbiotic nature between vocals and instrumentation took the album through a nice smooth road.
So my hats off to DODO here – the vocals bowled me over.

Whew! That was long.
So at the end of it all I have to say that Proloy’er Somoy’e is an above average album without a doubt. A new sound you said? Well however new it might be to the general bangla rock loving masses, to me it was very mainstream and accessible. If INSOMNIA succeed in popularizing this new sound then that makes it worth waiting (for your’s truly) for their next album.

But here is where I ask my 1st question to the band: With the myriad influences that are so evident on this album, what direction does INSMONIA take in the future? Although it was fun listening to a mix-and-match of heavy and not-so-heavy songs, it would be nice to see the band sticking to one specific genre and a few influences. Sounding like RATM in one song and then like COLDPLAY in the next may not be a very wise thing to do for future projects, esepcially when you want to establish your band as a front-runner in a particular genre of rock. Of course so much of this will be determined by album sales and fan reactions. SO I guess its too early to maybe decide about that.

Anyway, instead of rambling away I’ll just say that the band members have done themselves proud – the sound overall was extremely pleasing – the drums, keyboards, guitars, vocals all round were very tight and slick. Even the album production quality was a notch above what I’ve generally seen around for Indian bands. Seriously – I have the HELGA's FUN CASTLE album with me… but Proloy’er Somoy’e was way above the former's album production standard.

Ratings: 8 (out of 10)

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

I Dont Dope You Dope

When I was a kid in college people my age did grass and hash and so on and so forth. Kids back then needed to do that shit becoz:
It supposedly made them cool.
It was the in-thing to do before coming to a rock-show.
It was - to them - the ultimate way to appreciate music.

Ya. Right.

Its 2006. I'm 32 years old. I'm single. I'm a full-time yuppie going thru my everyday 9-to5 grind - my parents arent getting any younger, so I juggle my free-time between them, my friends, rock shows and the odd date. (yuss I love women - just for the record) . Life is pretty good for me. No, I'll re-phrase that - life is great!

Rock show. Yes, I still enjoy attending rock shows. I love music. I dont seem to have mellowed with age as far as music is concerned - I kinda have gone into more extreme, more aggressive forms of music. Most of my friends who were into rock music have shifted to classical music or jazz. One pal has even started listening (and appreciating) Cliff Richards these days... ho hum!

Anyway, whatever. The kids these days though have no qualms listening to death metal bands or nu-metal bands or punk bands. Which is why I seem to be interacting these days with college kids (more than 10 years my junior).
But am I complaining tho? HELL NO. What has age got to do with music? If you like it you listen - plain and simple. And if you want to headbang with the 18 year old 1st year student from St. Xaviers, well cool. Go ahead. Whats the big deal? Provided of course your body allows you - I ain't as supple and fit as I was 10 years back, no denying that.

And its all good fun... times have changed but its great to see the music flowing.

And with changing times, you would think that kids nowadays would be more innovative in the things they do... and you would certainly hope that do NOT end up aping the stuff kids were doing during my college days.
But no - no change there - you go to a rock show and you see these kids all high on dope. THey come all doped up before the show. Then they leave in between the show to roll up a quick joint or 2. And of course after the show they are nowhere around - they are busy again somewhere getting busy with their "G".
Its so stupid. And if you ask them why they do it - well the answers havent changed much actually from my college days:
It supposedly made them cool.
It was the in-thing to do before coming to a rock-show.
It was - to them - the ultimate way to appreciate music.

I have never smoked a joint in my life. Never. Never Ever. I dont need aritficial stimulants to get me high during a show - the music is good enough to get me orgasmic, thank you very much. And that includes booze, nicotine, sexy women and of course dope. Whether I booze or like women is a different issue altogether. The fact is I do not have to indulge in them to mke me appreciate a song, or to (as most kids tell me) "FEEL" the music. Its all assinine bull to me. If you really like music you dont need these to get you into some kinda orgasmic stupor.

And some of them are really really good kids - I love them a lot. And they respect me too - I dont know, my age doesnt really bother them. I guess I'm like some kinda older brother to them whom they can both talk to and headbang with.
So obviously it pains me when I see them getting into these mindless head trips. "Oh grass is harmless and Oh grass isnt really a drug"... bull-shit. If it werent a drug then why would you be sent to jail if you lit up publicly? Why would you have to hide in dark corners to roll a joint? Hypocrisy in your face!!

I dont know what this blog is about - am I angry about kids that I like and care about doing dope these days? Maybe.
Or maybe what I am trying to say is that, ahem, I am this real cool dude - and I dont have to roll up joints to increase my manliness or my cool factor. Maybe thass what I'm trying to say here.

Anyway - just enjoy the music is my message. And you dont need to be a cow to do that.

Friday, June 16, 2006

THE CHRONICLES OF CASSINI's - The Delhi and Dhanaulti chapter: 4th and 5th June, 2006

June 4th, 2006
The early hours of Monday. The band and I have freshened up after our long road trip and have had dinner and yapped a bit with the ladies of the house. We are all tired but the band decides to have a meeting. I stay awake despite my deadly drowsiness. It is one of the most important meetings Cassini’s has ever held and I am honoured to be attending it.
It’s about 2 AM when things wind-up. We have a long day ahead and need to sleep.


Morning. RSJ has been phoning the band non-stop – tonight’s gig at CLIMAX looks like to be a major one indeed. Everyone is excited – and we have also been reading reports in the Delhi newspapers about the band – some are favourable and some extremely ambiguous, but in general we all seem pleased and excited that the band is getting some positive coverage.
Nikhil Alva, a reporter from RSJ is supposed to be our liaison agent for the day. He comes over to meet us at around about noon. The plan is to shift the band to a guesthouse close to the venue, so we pack our stuff and follow our escort Mr. Alva.
Our 1st stop is in a field (which actually reminds me of a garbage dump) – this field is supposedly adjacent to the RSJ office premises. We are left standing in the heat and totally at our wits end, while Nikhil goes hunting for an official RSJ vehicle that would take us to the guesthouse. After a long wait he finally returns and we all bundle into another deluxe vehicle and head off to our next destination: Chittaranjan Park.

Chittaranjan Park. I’ve heard tons about this place, but have never been here before. It is supposedly a “little Kolkata” in the heart of sprawling Delhi… and the moment we enter this locality I fall in love with it, as do the rest of the band members. All around us we see houses with Bengali names on their address plates. And signboards in Bengali as well. It seems like we’re driving through Salt Lake, and we feel totally at home.
Of course, like I mentioned – Chittaranjan Park being almost a carbon copy of Salt Lake, we take ages to locate our guesthouse (For those of you who have ever visited Salt Lake, you’ll know what I mean). We end up driving in circles for the next 10-15 minutes desperately seeking the guesthouse. The driver and Nikhil are as lost as we are. Anyway after a loooooong search we finally locate the place. Nice cozy room it is too. Nikhil takes his leave but before doing so he informs us that the car would be picking us up at 4 PM, becoz our sound-check is at around 5ish.

We order lunch and watch a bit of TV. Towards the evening a friend of Sookie drops by – Amartya. I’ve met him at Someplace Else before, so it’s cool to see a familiar face in big bad Delhi. He loses no time in asking me what appears to have become a customary question, “Are you Sukanti’s younger brother?” – I believe I’ve been asked this question so many times this trip that maybe it would be a good idea to actually become his blood brother. Officially. In a court of law thingie.
Anyway. We spend some time listening to his weird quirky yarns. It helps to kill the time at least, becoz as usual, our transportation to Climax is nowhere in sight. Phone calls are made to Nikhil and Shivani (RSJ Assistant Manager - Events & Promotions) and they re-assure us that the car would be arriving soon to pick us up.

The band starts their usual pre-gig preparations – the theme tonight seems to be “all black”. So everyone decides to wear black tees. John borrows my “Shadows Fall” tee and it looks kinda cool on him, even if I say so myself! They also decide to play an all-original set – another move I find sensible.
The car finally does arrive. We say bye to Amartya who promises to be at Climax by 7 PM (that he didn’t turn up at all is a different story altogether!) – and head off to rock Delhi!!

Climax. My 1st impression of the place is like “WOH MAMMA”!!!
Speaking strictly in a Kolkata context, Climax reminds me of a cross between ROXY, B.E.D. and SHISHA (all happening night-clubs back home). It’s truly a swanky joint and extremely upper class. But holding a rock gig here??? Pardon me, but I am pretty skeptical – especially when I notice that the stage is outdoors.

We take our equipment inside and pile them up in front of the stage. The RSJ staff comes up to greet the band, and we meet the lovely Shivani as well. I’m smiling inside, becoz I’m sure the RSJ staff are thinking, “Who the hell is this guy with the Queensryche tee? And why is he with the band??”
Them Clones is on stage doing their sound check – and we get a taste of tonight’s sound system – pretty much what we had expected, state of the art gadgets and crystal clear sound all around. The band looks happy, and frankly, so am I.

About tonight’s gig – Cassini’s are the opening act, followed by Them Clones and Mumbai rockers Vayu. I personally am excited about Them Clones, becoz I admire them a lot and I love their sound. Of Vayu, I have absolutely zero idea about them, but they seem like seasoned performers, and any band which can make it from metal crazy Mumbai must be good!

We roam around Climax (looking for the bathroom) waiting for our sound-check turn. In between I get to meet the grand old man of Indian rock, Amit Saigal. I exchange a handshake and a pleasant hello with the dude and I get the same bewildered look from him as well… “who is this guy with the band anyway???” But I am positively chuffed.

The guys finally go up on stage for their sound-check. Pretty elaborate it is too, I should add. But everyone seems pleased with the way things are going till now.

And now, the long wait. The gig is supposed to start at 8 PM, but this being India, nothing really ever does start on time. So we wait. And we wait. The crowd slowly starts to trickle in. We go to the gates becoz we have a few passes for friends and acquaintances. And we find out that this night-club has a dress code as well – no jeans or sneakers or sandals!! Eeegad!!! Bloody murder!!! Luckily this rule has been relaxed otherwise hardly anyone would be allowed entry!
Outside we meet Lena and Rose and Abhishek Tiwari – another Delhi-based fan of the band. Also outside is Ludo’s pal Mainak and Tukan.

Inside its pretty crowded now. And it’s a pretty hep crowd – totally unlike what I am used to seeing at my favourite pub Someplace Else back home. I’m not sure whether these people are here to listen to the music or to just socialize the night away. But I keep calm anyway – no point in getting agitated even before the show has begun.
My pal Abhishek Majumdar finally arrives as promised, and I am delighted to see him – and as promised, he brings along a few of his pals as well. I also am happy to see Hemu Adhikari, an orkut pal of mine. Tall guy he is, and a nice “Cannibal Corpse” tee he is wearing too (or is it “Cradle Of Filth” – my memory!!!).

Amit Saigal and the band finally get up on stage. Mister Saigal says a few words and formally declares the start of the PUB ROCK festival in Delhi (lucky city, I’m already jealous!!). He introduces Cassini’s Division to the crowd and lets the festivities begin!!And begin they do – the band dish out “Drown” to the crowd. And it’s an excellent rendition as well, I might add. “Drown” is followed by the usual suspects: “Only For A While”, “Higher”, and “Animals”.
However, something doesn’t really seem right here. The crowd isn’t really getting involved or anything. They’re sitting on the ground and applauding after each song. And there are a few shouts of appreciation from behind as well. But not a single indication that there might be any headbanging or moshing happening tonight. I feel pretty disappointed.
Anyway, the show goes on – the band play “Stay” – and that perks up the Delhi crowd! I can see some of them bobbing their head now.
“Satyr9”. Awesome start to the song, and the crowd seem to like it a lot – the excitement on their faces is pretty visible.

I’m looking around however and I still see no signs that any moshing might take place. But at least the crowd behind the bar is jumping up and down with excitement. Unfortunately the crowd in front of the stage seems to be hard-core heavy-metal fanatics (I have read a lot about this underground group – they only listen to metal, the heavier the better!) and though they seem to be enjoying the music, they don’t show any signs of getting up.

And then… disaster! Rahul’s mic suddenly starts to fade out during the rendition of “Fake”. I don’t know whether he or the other band mates even realize this, but it’s definitely sounding bad, almost as if he’s whispering on stage. Lena frantically rushes off to the sound guy who raises his hands helplessly. After the song I shout out a few swear words about the sound. And a few guys in the crowd do so as well. Thank God. Coincidentally the AAJTAK camera-man starts to focus his gadget on me after my swearathon, which is a wee bit embarrassing – and I also get stared at by the pretty AAJTAK TV reporter. Stare, mind you, NOT ogled at!! I decide to mind my language for the time being – looks like Delhi can’t handle my weird Manipuri act.

Anyway, what to do, CD continue their Delhi onslaught with “Void Void” which goes down exceptionally well with the crowd. As is expected. And then follows the crowd puller “Caesar”.

Unfortunately, another guffaw enfolds here as well.

For some weird alienistic reason, one of the RSJ guys (a pony-tailed dude in an Arsenal tee) decides that this is the right time to tighten up a screw of one of Ludo’s cymbals… yes, during the midst of the song. So Ludo is rendered playless for a few minutes, which is absolute madness. And the guy also manages to disconnect Sookie’s guitar as well. So there you have it – for the 1st time ever, a semi-nude version of “Caesar”! I’m boiling mad by now.

The rest of show goes on without anymore sound or equipment hitches – “Glow Worm” and “The Urban Phenomena” are appreciated with a good amount of clapping and cheers. But no calls for an encore, unfortunately – this crowd either did not enjoy the show or they happen to be the most decent crowd ever to have been present at a Cassini’s gig. I am absolutely bewildered!! But anyway, I guess I can’t complain – it was definitely a sizable crowd, and there was no hint of the intimidation factor that I had heard so much about. Delhi rock lovers are considered to be the toughest people to play to in the country, so in hind-sight I would have to say this was a pretty good gig by Cassini’s – but it didn’t rise to their Sunday “Someplace Else” heights, thatz for sure.

The band seem to be disappointed with their performance though and they vanish from Climax with Chintan Kalra and Dilip Ramachandran (both of PARIKRAMA fame) – I guess they need time to reflect on tonight’s performance and over-all crowd reaction. So I let them be.
I stick around and check out Them Clones who are now on stage are busy wowing the crowd with an all original set. I like this band a lot and it feels good to see them playing live after almost a year.

I spend the rest of the evening hob-nobbing with Lena and Rose and the rest of Cassini’s support line. And with the crowd of Delhi socialites – they are an interesting bunch of people, the likes of whom you don’t really get to see in Kolkata. The crowd has magically decided to stand up now and all those scary metal-heads who were initially sitting are now head-banging with gay abandon to each Them Clones song! Well duh, Them Clones are a Delhi band after all, so I guess it’s very natural that the Climax crowd loves them so much. Sniff. Reminds me of the Sundays back home at Someplace Else when Cassini’s Division play to a full house. Sniff.

After Them Clones, it’s now the turn of Vayu to get up on stage. The Cassini’s gang co-incidentally decides to make their re-appearance at Climax again with Dilip and Chintan. We stick around to watch Vayu who are a classic rock covers band. And they give a really tight performance with loads of classic rock crowd-pullers. Their front-man 2Blue is quite the showman. He even tears his tee off and offers to give it to the woman (or was it a hetero-sexual offer this? Don’t really remember!!) who screams the loudest during their show. I wonder if he really did give his tee away. I didn’t stick around for that scene, thank god.
Anyway, personally I feel Kolkata’s very own Hip Pocket is a much better classic rock covers band than Vayu – but Vayu certainly does put up a very impressive show, they seemed to go down with the Climax crowd extremely well.

SO, the 1st Pub Rock show ends and it looks like it’s been a major success. As in Dhanaulti, here too members of the audience come over and pat me on the back and shake my hand and tell me how much they loved Cassini’s sound. One bloke even comes up to me and says that he has my number and would be calling me up to book Cassini’s for another Delhi show in October. Ya right! Like I believe that bullshit… a taste of Delhi for you!

It’s past midnight now. All I wanna do is eat dinner and go to sleep. I have a flight to catch at 9 AM in the morning and I am in no mood to party whole night. Unfortunately the night is still young – and no one really is concerned that it’s already a new day, Monday –
5th June, 2006

We have a quick pasta dinner and I manage to get the band to pose for a few snaps with the Them Clones guys who are sitting at the table adjacent to us. Dilip from Parikrama is also around and he wants to take the gang to his pad to hear an uninterrupted acoustic version of “Caesar”. And Chintan is coming along too. So that means I have to tag along! Oh dear! I’m more worried than sleepy now becoz it looks like it’s going to be a looooong night.

We follow Dilip back to his flat in South Delhi and I must say it’s an extremely well furnished place. Chintan and a few of their friends join up as well. So after the customary jokes, the band get down to business – Rahul plays and sings them “Caesar” and a few other tunes like “Simba”, “Rumble” and “Mister Mishra”. Our hosts are absolutely delighted with their mini performance. Chintan and Dilip dish out a lot of words of encouragement for the band, and it really is wonderful to see such established musicians speak so highly about this “controversial” Kolkata quartet. They even call them the “FUTURE OF INDIAN ROCK” – now that my friends, is the mother of all praises!

Unfortunately I ain’t in much of a sociable mood – so I sit quietly in a corner sipping away at my peg of Absolut Vodka feeling sleepy and worried drunk. Worried that I ain’t gonna get any sleep and that I’m gonna miss my morning flight. Anyway. It’s a pleasant party notwithstanding and I do enjoy myself even though I generally keep mum. If either Dilip or Chintan is reading this then I apologise for my weird behaviour. I’m generally not that bad a bum or party-pooper. Well most of the time at least.

At approx. 4 AM we decide to call it a night (or should I say morning??). We say our thank yous and byes to our hosts and head back to CR PARK. The trip doesn’t take too long – the roads are empty after all!


And that my friends ends my part in this journey of mad-cap mystery. I guess I’ll just add that I did manage to catch my Kingfisher flight after just 1 hour of sleep back at CR Park. My last memory of the band is:
- Ludo snoring away to Kingdom Come.
- John snoring away to Kingdom Come as well.
- Rahul underneath his blanket.
- Sookie downloading in the bathroom.

The CD guys leave for home in the evening by train. I hope none of them strangle anyone on their way back or is force fed poison.

A week with the band – one of the best experiences I have ever had – I got to hang out with not only 4 talented musicians, but also 4 really good friends. It was one of my best vacations ever, and I thank them from the bottom of my heart for taking such good care of me and also for letting me be a part of their world – the nutty, crazy, totally blow-your-mind-out world of CASSINI’s DIVISION.

THE CHRONICLES OF CASSINI's - The Delhi and Dhanaulti chapter: 3rd June, 2006

3rd June, 2006
We stick around for a jam session between Advaita and a few other professional musicians, but hunger strikes us real bad and we leave after a few songs. It’s way past midnight too, and we had been promised a car by Ajay Romola to take us back to Delhi as soon as our show got over. Unfortunately there is no car and we aren’t sure what to do. Shampa, a friend of Vivek, suggests we stay back and hitch a ride to Delhi in the morning. And ultimately after much discussion with Ajay we decide to do just that. We need the sleep anyway – the bus journey the previous night still has us pretty much K.O.ed.
We go back to our room and chat a bit with Vivek who is absolutely bowled over by Cassini’s performance. We get to talking about music and good ‘ol Kolkata for some time, until Vivek goes back to his room. John on the other hand has gone A.W.L. – and everyone is worried about his whereabouts. Rahul and Ludo even plan a search party for the lost member, but Sookie is snug between his sheets and is in no mood to budge. What to do… me and Ludo take a few more swigs from the hip-flask. And wait.

Finally John arrives, and it’s past 3 AM!!! He tells us that he’s been to the potato farm looking for leopards… I don’t know whether to turn into a leopard myself and eat him up like a potato!!!! Anyway, we go to sleep becoz we all want to be fresh tomorrow for our long journey back to Delhi.


We’re all up and raring to go back after a good night’s sleep. We enquire about our car back for Dehra Dun, and are told that all arrangements have been finalized – the plan is to go to Dehra Dun and from there we board an A/C vehicle back to the capital.

Me and Ludo decide to go skulking around the back-roads of Dhanaulti before we leave – it’s really an awesome hill station and I sincerely wish we could have stayed longer. I guess maybe at the next Dhanaulti show. After a cuppa tea we head back to the hotel to get our stuff and along the way we meet the Delhi band Manthan. Nice chaps they be. Anyway, we say bye to Andy and Ajay and Vivek and Shampa and get into our vehicle. And off to Dehra Dun we are!
Within 15 minutes of our journey I start to feel woozy – it can only mean my body is succumbing to motion sickness!! I promptly decide to spend the rest of the journey with my eyes closed and listening to my mp3 player. So I miss most of the bullshit that takes place during the ride back. But I do have the good presence of mind to open my eyes occasionally to take in the beautiful scenery around us. Uttaranchal is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful states of India. The sight of mountains all around is awesome!
We drive through Mussorie and reach Dehra Dun after a few hours. Another change of vehicle – this time a Mahindra Scorpio is at our beck and call… boy, the band sure knows how to travel in style!

We continue our journey – near abouts Meerut Rahul starts jumping up and down in the car – he’s spotted a forest full of “weed” growing on both sides of the road – a proper cultivation in the truest sense of the word. We stop for one of our customary tea breaks and Rahul wastes no time in getting a leaf sample, which he presses between the pages of John’s notebook.

And the journey continues. The weather is unexpectedly pleasant – it’s been raining throughout the state. We pray that it is raining in Delhi too.

Lunch, somewhere near the borders of UP and Uttaranchal. And boy, can these guys eat! Barring Rahul, the rest of the band members have appetites that would rival Bhima’s or Kumbhakarna’s. And this has rubbed off on me as well. We all gorge on a repast that would surely have fed a minimum of 10 people. I feel kinda sick after our late lunch – I never seem to learn that gluttony is a cardinal sin, but I still pray to God that I don’t end up puking in the car on our final leg of the journey.

Anyway, we are off once again – and apart from the customary tea break in the evening we seem to be making good ground. The guys spend their time listening to a lot of music – hindi as well as hip hop. (yes yes yes , not alternative or metal!!)We finally reach Delhi. It’s past 10 PM. I am absolutely pooped. Thank god the weather is cool. And it’s great to be back at Lena and Rose’s apartment where the toilet is clean!

THE CHRONICLES OF CASSINI's - The Delhi and Dhanaulti chapter: 2nd June, 2006

2nd June, 2006
It’s way past midnight and yet none of us can sleep – mister bus driver is driving as if he’s being pursued by a T-Rex. The bus swerves dangerously from one lane to the other, barely avoiding lorries and other buses approaching from the opposite lane. We also notice the guy nodding off at the wheel!
Everyone is holding on to the edge of their seats now – I keep on remind myself that this ain’t no scene from Keanu Reeves’ “SPEED”!!
Anyway, after much hollering and swearing we wake up the driver’s assistant who has been ‘till now, sleeping like a baby! Asshole!! And we also force the driver to take an impromptu tea-break. In fact we all need a tea-break as well, after that hair-raising experience!

The rest of the journey goes on peacefully – Ludo wakes me up at around 3:30 AM when we are passing through Hardwar. I personally am not a fan of places of pilgrimage, but in this case it is absolutely awesome viewing this holy town in the early hours. The air is getting slightly nippy too, a sure-shot sign that the mountains are close by.

We arrive at Dehra Dun at the break of dawn. I love the look of this town – reminds me a lot of Shillong, one of my favouritest places on this planet.

Anyway, the first part of our trip ends at Dehra Dun. We are asked to board another (much smaller) bus for the 2nd and final leg of our journey. And this we do… up and up we go – the air starts getting cooler with every passing minute. And I am mesmerized by the view of the mountains and green around me – it’s great to be up in the hills again!
Most of the passengers are either sleeping or staring groggily at the mountains like zombies. Actually, so am I!!
There is a huge box full of milk packets on the bus as well, and a few of these packs suddenly decide to make this sleepy journey more exciting by leaking all over the front of the bus. In no time we have milk all over the floor and the bus starts to smell like a diary product. Anyway this hiccup, we finally reach Dhanaulti – as the bus parks in front of Andyji’s “Evolving Cafetaria” I get my 1st glimpse of our host Andy Baines – a tall gentleman with a huge mop of “dreadlocked” hair and an extremely warm smile. Ajay Romola, his assistant shows us our rooms – I decide to bunk in with Rahul and John for the time being.

After a quick wash-up and potty session we all decide to go have brunch – it is almost 11 AM, and the band is supposed to be playing in the evening. After a hearty helping of aloo parathas and double omlettes we all head back to our rooms, where the others decide to catch up on their sleep. I decide to take a warm bath instead but am horrified to see that none of the locks on the bathroom door work!! And ditto in the other room as well. To soak or not to soak?? Well I choose the former with much trepidation!

By the time evening approaches the gang is as fresh as daisies. I’m pretty much amazed that anybody got any sleep though – the sound system has been blaring non-stop since noon and it’s been driving me bonkers.
Anyway, we hop over to Andy’s joint, where Ajay hands out our entry cards for the show. The venue, by the way, is in the back-yard of Andy’s restaurant – a nice comfy area which seems capable of hosting 100-150 odd people – but not more. The previous edition of “Dhanaulti Rocks” was held on a more grander scale, but none of the bands seem disappointed with this year’s venue as a whole. We stand around and check out the guys from Vishnu who are going through the motions of their sound check.

The sound… hmm. 1st impression – not too good. Me and the band have a quick cuppa tea and head back for a pre-show meeting in our room. Strategies are chalked out and a rough song-list for the show is assembled. Everyone is pretty relaxed, and the general consensus is that if the band can play good at a pub the size of Someplace Else back home in Kolkata, then the sound over at Andy’s shouldn’t be much of a deterrent for a good show. And I have to agree with them.
We soon hear Bobby Cash dishing out his country songs to the Dhanaulti crowd from our hotel room. Rahul decides to go check him out and we all follow him down to the venue as well.
Bobby Cash! Wow! I never really liked him much but after watching his performance tonight I have to admit that he’s one helluva artiste and an extremely talented guitarist as well. It was a fascinating show. At one point during his performance the power goes away, but he’s totally nonchalant and continues playing despite.

Vishnu is up next. And they don’t waste any time in churning out their collection of Guns ‘n Roses covers, with a few Iron Maiden ones in between. Pretty cool show they put up.
We take a quick rain-check before their show ends – the guys go back to their rooms for a final round of preparation – and it’s a pretty funny sight watching them get dolled up before their show!!!
- John takes out his “FAMOUS” Mclaren jacket from his bag. And despite the constant leg-pulling from Sookie and Ludo, he decides to wear it on stage anyway. And he also busies himself with painting his finger-nails black and applying kaajol on his face. His objective seems to be to look as gothic as possible during the show.
- Rahul can’t decide whether to wear a sweater on stage, or his “99.9% Evil” tee-shirt over his sweater. In the end he chooses neither and puts on his “Wasted” full-sleeve jumper.
- Sookie takes a quick rush to the loo and comes out grinning like a Cheshire cat after a few minutes. I presume he’s been downloading.
- Ludo takes a few more swigs from my hip flask – and cracks a couple of “Chewing-Doing” jokes which irritates everyone no end.

Finally we are all ready – the band that is. We carry the equipment down to the venue and wait for Vishnu’s cover of IronMaiden’s “Invaders” to get over.

I help the guys put their toys on stage and select a strategical point for myself so that I can shoot pictures of the band in peace. The crowd has kinda thinned after the Vishnu show – I see a few excited (and possibly drunk) American tourists jumping up and down in front of the stage. Vivek Mattoo, a fan of Cassini’s Division joins me as well. This guy is a true member of the CD underground army – he’s from Simla but works in Noida, and he’s bunked a day’s work just to see the band play live. I tell him about the band’s new sound and he’s absolutely on tenterhooks, waiting for the show to start.

And then the music begins!!!

The band initially plan to dish out a few covers (as an unofficial sound-check) becoz they aren’t too sure about the quality of sound. So they start off with Dashboard Confessional’s “VINDICATED” but I cannot hear Sookie’s lead AT ALL! And the backing vocals sound like someone is singing in Paris and not in Dhanaulti. But the song goes down well with the sparse crowd.
R.E.M.’s “IMITATION OF LIFE” is up next – the band sounds a bit better now (after Andy has done some knob-twiddling no doubt) – so plan-B comes into picture – a full-fledged assault of Cassini’s originals for the crowd!!
Drown, Only For A While, Higher, Stay… they all come in quick succession. By the time they play “Stay”, the crowd has increased considerably. I smile smugly and yell back to the band “Kheye gachhe, crowd kheye gachhe” (loosely translated from Bengali to English: the crowd has fallen for your stuff hook, line and sinker!)

And then the highlight of the show – the 1st ever rendition of “Satyr9” at Dhanaulti. The crowd are thunderstruck and don’t know what has hit them – and then the moshing starts!!
I have already decided that I won’t be indulging in any head-bobbing activities – so I hide behind a pillar and busy myself by snapping away merrily.

The band complete their white noize assault with “Fake”, “Void Void”, “Caesar”, “Glow Worm” and “The Urban Phenomena”. The crowd up front goes completely berserk!! I see the members from Vishnu and Advaita and Orange Street starring intensely at Rahul and the gang from the back rows. Awe? Admiration?? Jealousy??? …I really can’t say.

But the bottom-line – Cassini’s Division bring down the house on Dhanaulti Day #1. The crowd don’t let them get off stage until they play an encore – so they go into another round of “Satyr9”, which turns out to be the night’s biggest hit.

The crowd cheers as the boys come off stage – and I get a few pats on the back too from the crowd (they obviously think I’m their manager or roadie or groupie or WHATVER!!!!)
It’s been a highly successful show despite the patchy sound. The band has won over the Dhanaulti crowd with their unique sound and undoubtedly added a whole bunch of people to their fan list.

THE CHRONICLES OF CASSINI's - The Delhi and Dhanaulti chapter: 1st June, 2006

1st June, 2006
The bus to Dhanaulti is in the evening, so we have a lot of time to kill. Unfortunately the oppressive heat discourages us from going out for a city stroll. So we spend the day inside – and Rahul plays his new conceived tunes for the other band members. Needless to say, they sound awesome. He also jots down some real cool lyrics for these tunes in the wink of an eye – and voila, A new Cassini’s song!!
The band gets into the thick of things now, and come up with some other cool tunes for possible new songs. They also discuss strategies for their new album. It feels really nice to be a part of these discussions – especially when they ask me for my, AHEM, opinion!

We also spend a bit of time listening to the songs on my mp3 player – the guys like the new BULLET FOR MY VALENTINE and DISTURBED song on it. We talk about LACUNA COIL and LINKIN PARK. And also about one of Sukanti’s favourite bands, SLIPKNOT.
Meanwhile John is walking around the house in his socks the whole day, something we cannot understand for the life of. I assume that it’s some kinda fetish thingie… can’t be anything else.

We go out in the evening for some provision hunting – namely mineral water and medicine (avomin for me) and cigarettes too. I also need some whiskey and John needs black-nail polish. So me and Ludo and John go hunting for those as well. After much rickshaw hopping and “astronauting” we find our stuff. And by the end of our little outing Ludo has labeled all the shop keepers of Patparganj as “astronauts” … poor Delhites!

John and Sookie make a few phone calls and find out that our bus is to depart at 8:30 PM and not 6:30, as we had been initially informed. We also get a few calls from RSJ who are delighted that the band has arrived in tip-top shape for the Sunday gig at CLIMAX – part of RSJ’s much publicized month-long “Pub Rock” festival happening in Delhi.

Anyway, the time for “Destination Dhanaulti” approaches. We set off for the bus start-zone. It’s a nice bus and besides us there are members and friends of the bands Advaita and Vishnu… a few others too, whose band names I don’t remember. We manage to get front seats – Sookie and Ludo initially sit in the cabin beside the driver. After a quick roll-call the driver revs up the engine – and we are OFF to Dhanaulti.

I spend the initial part of the journey sleeping and occasionally swigging whiskey from my hip flask. Ludo swigs away with me as well. Everyone seems pretty excited – old pals meeting up and swapping manly jokes in the rear section of the bus, others are busy smoking the night away. We stop at a nice dhaba for dinner in between the journey – and after dinner the bus driver (who is pretty much drunk) decides to make our journey more exciting. For some weird reason he decides to start the journey without half the passengers who are still at the dhaba having their meal! After much shouting and cussing he drives back to pick up the rest of guys. And then after another restart he has to stop again – this time John has left his cell-phone behind at the dhaba!

THE CHRONICLES OF CASSINI's - The Delhi and Dhanaulti chapter: 31st May, 2006

May 31st, 2006
Morning. The train is running late by a bit. Ludo is still sleeping. The others are up however. Well actually, it seems like Rahul, Sookie and John couldn’t sleep a wink, so they were technically up the whole night. Rahul is also worried that his guitar might have faced irreparable damage after spending a night under John and Sookie’s hard guitar cases. They debate about that for the next 10 minutes till morning tea is served.
After tea I pass on my METAL HAMMER magazine to Rahul, the pages of which he starts flipping through gleefully. Sookie busies himself by brewing another killer cup of coffee. After a nice breakfast I suddenly experience one of those weird Manipuri mood-swings and start yelling and swearing in Bengali, much to the embarrassment of John.
After an hour or so of my torture we finally reach New Delhi.

Delhi! Whew!! What can I tell you – man, it’s burning HOT in our capital city. And hello??? NO humidity you say? Woh! My 1st 10 minutes here tell me that it’s almost as bad as Kolkata.
Anyway, we all bundle into a cab and head for Patparganj (located on the other side of the Yamuna river) – the residence of Rose and Lena (John’s sister). On the way we ask the cabbie to take us to the nearest booze shop. But the guy can’t seem to stop grinning as he informs us that liquor shops in Delhi DO NOT OPEN BEFORE 1 PM!!!!!
WHAT???? What kinda weird debauched system is this???? We are so stunned (well me and Ludo at least… Rahul keeps on saying “I told you so, I told you so”) that we don’t utter a single word during the journey. I am already starting to miss good ‘ol Kolkata – at least things are a lot more NORMAL back home!
We finally reach our destination – we are tired, and sweaty, and hungry. And our stomachs don’t feel good either (courtesy: last night’s chicken curry dinner). Anyway it’s great to be inside the comfort of a well-furnished apartment. Lena and Rosamma are both at work, but they have left a load of instructions on a piece of paper for us – food in the kitchen, eggs in the fridge, don’t use the 2nd tap on the left, turn on the A/C, yadda yadda yadda.
They both make their appearances after an hour or so – and Lena brings along some beer and wine and a bottle of whiskey for me. God bless her. I am introduced to the 2 ladies as “the fan from Kolkata” – and I don’t know whether I should be proud of that intro, or whether I should behave like a dancing bear and show them some stunts! Anyway!

After some much needed rest we all feel re-energised. Ludo and Sukanti go out to meet a friend of theirs (Mainak). Rahul seems to be in a major artistic mood and he spends the entire evening strumming Rose’s guitar and making notes in his diary. I finally get over my initial shyness and start behaving like the crazy Manipuri that I am, much to the delight of Lena and Rose. John doesn’t know whether he should shut my mouth with scotch tape or run away. The whiskey is definitely not making things any better.

We end the day with some more astounding Delhi facts – courtesy Ludo and Sookie… it seems that cigarette shops in this city all shut-down by 11 PM. But not so the ice-cream wallahs – they roam the streets at night selling their wares to the ice-cream starved citizens of our capital city, and people actually seem to buy these icicles even at the ungodly hour of 1 AM!!!

Boy what a weird city this is.

THE CHRONICLES OF CASSINI's - The Delhi and Dhanaulti chapter: 30th May, 2006

May 30th, 2006
It’s a hot and humid Tuesday afternoon - John, Ludo and I meet up at Ruby and hitch a cab ride to the Sealdah station. Taxi-rides are pretty uneventful in Kolkata, but not when you are traveling with 2 crazy members from CASSINI’s DIVISION who spend their time bugging each other. I get my first taste of Ludo’s “Astronaut – Ass” mantra, and it leaves me totally perplexed! But what leaves me more dumb-found is when Ludo gets down somewhere near Moulali to buy cigarettes from a shop that sells car batteries!!! (An honest mistake, I know!)
The journey hasn’t even begun and yet the signs are ominous – this is going to be one helluva mad-cap journey!

Rahul and Sookie are already at the station by the time we reach. The Rajdhani is on time and we find our compartment. Unfortunately our seats seem to be scattered all over, so after stuffing our luggage on board, we spend the initial part of the journey keeping to ourselves.
- I spend my time reading the manual of my digital camera, but I don’t make much headway since the instructions are all Greek to me.
- Sookie busies himself by making himself mammoth cup after mammoth cup of coffee.
- John gets down to stringing his bass guitar.
- Ludo chats with a few co-passengers who are excited to be traveling on the same train as a pony-tailed rock musician.
- Rahul? Oh he’s busy reading. He finishes 2 magazines before dinner-time, and then promptly starts reading a collection of fantasy short-stories, absolutely oblivious to the leg-pulling going on between the other 3.

And in between all the above we do a lot of munching and crunching – the stewards on the Rajdhani spend a whole lot of time feeding us. We burp our way through the initial part of the train ride.
We also get together in between the munching and crunching to discuss the current rock scene in Kolkata and also about Someplace Else. This is never a cheery topic, and despite the recent success of Cassini’s (** touchwood **), Rahul reminds the other band-members that it will always be a struggle for bands in Kolkata, regardless of them being “THE HOBOS or LOS LOBOS”!
And so the journey continue…

Dinner is soon served – and it’ s chicken curry. However my advice to all of you would be to
avoid it all costs the next time you travel by Rajdhani. Not unless you wish to spend a night of stomach clutching and loo running!! Seriously – by the next day 4 of us are feeling quite miserable and we blame the chicken for our plight. But that is another story.

There isn’t much to do after dinner, so I decide to go to sleep despite it being only 10 PM. The others spend their time in more productive ways no doubt. My last memory before I conk off is that of John praying on his bunk and Ludo swigging away at a peg of rum concealed in a bottle of Thums Up.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006


I am not a musician, as many of you know. Neither have I ever pretended to be a walking-talking musical encyclopedia. And I am certainly not a musical messiah out to educate the masses.
But I do think I know a little about music. And I would like to think that I have an ear for good music, be it of any genre. And it delights me to see music flourishing in our city of Joy, especially in the genre of rock.

The music scene for rock bands has never been better in Kolkata. Apart from the good 'ol bangla bands there are many some up-and-coming rock bands in our city doing excellent music - Crystal Grass, The Hobos, Jackrabbits etc. etc. etc. And Cassini's Division. How could I forget them??? :)

Cassini's Division - a group of hard-working musicians, who believe in hard-work and struggling to keep their dreams alive in a music industry which don't know balls about music.

Something seems to draw me towards CASSINI's DIVISION - its hard to define why. I 1st heard this band last year at their old 9:30 PM Sunday slot at SOMEPLACE ELSE (@ the Park Hotel). I had no idea who they were and I didnt even know their band name - in fact I initially thought they were called CASSANDRA's DIVISION. :))

But the fact is, I still liked their sound enough to want to come again to see them play. And again. And again.
I also started spreading the good word around about them on the internet and in my office area (Sector-V, Salt Lake)... I didnt know these guys - they werent my old school-mates or my para'r thek'er group or married to my 3rd cousin from Chandan-nagar. And yet, I felt good when I listened to their music. I felt a part of myself feeling complete in heart and soul when I untied my pony-tail and head-banged like a maniac, as if no one was watching me. I felt good all around.
And doing a little PR for them was kinda my way of saying "Thank You for the music".

For the uninitiated - Cassini's Division are a 4-member band comprising of:
Guitarist and lead-screecher supreme and the growling grunterismo - RAHUL GUHA ROY aka Yoda
Lead Axeman 'abt to explode - SUKANTI ROY aka Quietus
Bass Man - JOHN BOSE aka Johnny B. Goode
Drum Monster - RITOBAN DAS aka Ludo

These 4 guys played awesome original alternative music and the odd decent cover as well. I liked their sound - maybe becoz it was slightly heavier than the other bands that played @ Someplace Else... I guess most of you know, I prefer heavy metal to the Doors or Pink Floyd (although I do love these 2 bands)
A year back their sound was truly R.E.M'esque or CRASH TEST DUMMIES like - not really heavy or anything. But they had a tight sound. And the covers they played also reflected the kinda music they were influenced by in those days - it was a treat to watch them play melodic alternative songs like STAIND's "Outside", RADIOHEAD's "Creep", R.E.M.s "Imitations Of Life", THE CALLING's "Wherever You May Go".

They would occasionally get heckled by the stupid, rigid-minded SPE crowd wanting their regular dose of classic rock - and I guess reluctantly Cassini's had to perform their alternative versions of various classic rock songs - great fun, but was it really what they wanted to play?? I dont honestly know, since I have never asked them 'till date. At least these few songs kept the crowd quiet.
And slowly but surely the SPE audience started appreciating the quality of their originals.

Originals. Appreciating originals is always gonna be the problem of the Kolkata live rock audience - you listen to COMFORTABLY NUMB whole day on your mp3 player and yet, you still want the live band to play that song for you when you come to Someplace Else to when you atend some other rock gig - it may be fun for you, but I have realised through the years that playing covers is the biggest way to kill the artistic individuality of a band. We criticize Bappi Lahiri and our other Bollywood music stars when they lift or copy a western tune. We get scandalised that they dont manage to play original stuff... and yet we come to SPE, mecca for rock music in sunny Kolkata - and we get exasperated when a band wont play covers of their favourite bands!!!
What kinda fucking hypocritical attitude is that???

Thank God I have managed to come out of this mind-block about Kolkata bands not being good enough to do their own music. When I met the manager of Someplace Else, Gautam Singh last year at the Joe Satriani concert, he 1st told me about Cassini's Division... about this new band which played alternative and grunge and had a heavy sound... and lordy lord - they played originals too!!
And like the typical rock-music loving Kolkatan, I too was bloody sceptical. Bands had done their originals in bangla very successfully - but in English?? Naa, I didnt think Cassini's would be able to pull it off, especially at a place like Someplace Else, where classic rock ruled supreme.

Doubting Thomas that I am - I am glad that I was so wrong and I gladly eat my words.
Because not only have they succeeded in pulling off the impossible in our city, they have also managed to start a revolution - so nowadays people actually expect a band on stage to play originals and not just the typical crummy cover.

If any of you reading this blog have ever heard Cassini's a year back (circa 2005) - and have heard them a year later (post March-April 2006) you will realise how far a band can go just on the basis of well-composed songs and sheer hard-work. No covers, no gimmicks, nothing - just good quality originals and a conviction to succeed in a city that is 2 steps behind the music scene in Mumbai, Bangalore, Delhi and Pune.
People in Kolkata call them loud and noisy and heavy. And I am sure these people get ear-aches when they hear Rahul screeching in "URBAN PHENOMENON"... me? I think the heavier they get the better, its the biggest high for me.
But yes, truth be told, they were never this heavy last year. I guess exposure to the music scene in and around the rest of the country has opened their eyes to the fact that success in Kolkata is not what its about. And the hard truth is that even the mellower rock bands in the rest of country were at one point even heavier than the old Cassini's avatar...

And so as the months have progressed Cassini's has steadily but surely increased the "heavy" element in their music. But its not that just making their originals more heavier is all that they've done. Their songs have also gone through a helluva lotta fine-tuning as well. They sound more tighter, they sound musically richer and last but not the least - they have added the element of "hey we want you, the audience to sing along with us" as well. And looking at the crowd reaction @ their weekly Sunday slot @ SOMEPLACE ELSE, you do actually see a helluva lot more crowd involvement - people you have never seen at their shows are also singing along to the chorus. And like most bands - the more the crowd gets involved, the better the band seem to perform... its like they are feeding off the positive energy being emitted from the audience.

For a guy who has been following their music so intensely for the last year, these changes in their music warms the cockles of my heart no end. When I close my eyes, I can't even make out that this band isnt from grunge land Seattle or from some other city in the USA. Hell, this band is from good 'ol Kolkata, City Of Joy - and they make it look and sound so easy! :)

I dont know how the music industry in India works. And barring the odd musician, I dont know too many people belonging to this industry. I'm just a common joe who likes listening to good music and I will be listening to music longer than most of these up-and-coming bands survive in this dog-eat-dog industry. Tough luck to them, but if they suck I aint gonna buy their music.

But not so with Cassini's Division - and I say that from the bottom of my heart.
And hey, these guys havent paid me to say all these nice things about them. And Like I said - i aint related to their kakas or kakis or mamas or mamis. I just like this band. Period.

SO all I am gonna say to Cassini's is thank you for accepting me into your fold, thank you for tolerating my crazy head-banging antics (when I had my pony-tail back then), and thank you for appreciating any kinda criticism I have dumped upon you in your one year @ Someplace Else.
You've completed a year at Kolkata's mecca of rock. And you've passed the test. And fuck any CACTUS member who thinks otherwise. Stick to your ideologies and beliefs... and next year same time, same place, I'll be writing another post about Cassini's Division - Year II.

God bless. :))

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

URBAN REFLECTIONS - a reflection of different musical genres @ SPE

A lot of people in orkut know I am a total metal-head - so I dont know if I am the proper person to write a review of a show for a band which was anything BUT metal/alternative. But, I'm not a narrow-minded git, and I do try and listen to other musical genres as well. I dont claim to understand them all. And I definitely dont like listening to them all the time. But music is an art form with no boundaries - and its good to experience something different at times.

SO here I am @ SOMEPLACE ELSE (the mecca for all things rock-related in Kolkata), still suprised that I managed to garner the enthu to come for something non-metallic/alternative. The crowd is pretty different as well - not too many people who I would term as regulars. Anyway, the band start off with an interesting sound-check. Cool. And the bass guitarist Sanket (of Lakkichhara) caught my eye - I liked the way he was bassing up the sound.The 1st song they started off with was a classic 80's Brit Pop song - "TEARS FOR FEARS" and "Break It Down Again" - man, what a good cover that was. So now I'm all wide-eyed looking forward to a real rocking evening. And all of a sudden - the next song... BARRY MANILOW!!!! - nothing against him, he's a superb vocalist. But I dont really like that type of music. Yuck!
In fact, that I feel was the pattern of the entire evening - excellent covers and excellent jam sessions all round - but in between, there would be a few songs which they played that suddenly changed the entire mood, and I really couldnt digest them.Their original compositions (sans the Bangla lyrics) were truly breathtaking however. You could just close your eyes and let the music take you away to another place, another time. If that is what an amalgamation of jazz/funk/blues sounds like, then boy, I sure as hell would like to listen to some more!!!

Another thing I noticed was the band played covers for many artists not very well-known or comercially successful. Yes, the crowd was knowledgable no doubt - but I dont think they had heard of most of these artists. Like LIVING COLOR... What an awesome band - and their cover "Cult Of Personality" was superb. It rocked the house!And I was suprised that not many people had heard of Me'shell Ndegyocello (judging from the crowd reaction). She is a monster bass guitarist (u might have heard her in the song WILD NIGHTS with John Mellen Camp). Anyway. Panku was awesome in that cover, a delight to watch. In fact, I at times just shut out the other instruments from my mind and solely concentrated on his bass playing: BA DA BA DA BA DA... wow! He was good!
Other artists whose covers they played were Rainbow, Steely Dan, Bob Marley (that got the crowd jumping up and down - seemd to me the biggest crowd-puller that night)... and a group called the AQUARIUM RESCUE UNIT!! - I must confess my ignorance - I have never heard of this group!

The worst moments? Manilow babu apart - I could NOT digest the Dr. Hook "Sexy Eyes" cover (I hate that group too) - and I DID NOT enjoy Debu's rendition of "Michelle" by "THE BEATLES" - no insults, but I just didnt like the way he sang it. Anyway.

At the end of it all, I have to say that Urban Reflections are an excellent band - I couldnt find a single weak unit in the line-up - drums, vox, bass, lead (awesome), keyboards (awesome again). So its a pity that these guys arent full-time with this group. They had excellent musical chemistry which was a delight to watch.In a nutshell, Urban Reflections were a treat to watch, but maybe next time they could stick to playing the blues-jazz stuff more and leave out the GOLDEN OLDIES bit.

Friday, April 07, 2006

HELGA's FUN CASTLE - 100% Pure Fun!

This gig wasnt just fun... it was sheer fucking madness

Helga's, as many of yo know, are a jam band who have this knack of composing their songs impromptu on stage. That, my friends, is a tough thing to do - but for their lead vocalist Sidd Coutto it was as easy as eating pie... or peeing in the loo... whatever... I guess u get my point.
And yet they have still managed to bring out a pretty interesting album called "THANK YOU. COME AGAIN" - the material that they play is a mixture of alternative (lotsa nu-metal undertones) and reggae and god-knows what!! Lets keep it simple here - these guys have been influenced by a million bands, but the stuff they play is undefinable genre-wise.

So to the gig itself. Good crowd btw. A few members of Crystal Grass and Cassini's Division were there. As were quite a few head-bangers.
1st song: ALIEN ANT FARM - great start. I actually didnt realise that they had started playing, the intro sounded so much like the original.

Other covers they played: "Roxanne" by THE POLICE and "Nice To Know You" by INCUBUS... I loved the latter. Really head-banged to that one!!
This band aint that high on the covers section however. And their idea of fun is to slash away at songs just for the heck-of it. For example, they played their version of RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE's "Bulls On Parade", but instead called it "COWARDS ON PARADE". Didnt sound too bad either.
Another time, they asked for a topic they could jam on. I yelled out "SEX!!"... and they then and there composed a song called "GET LAID" based upon an AUDIOSLAVE song! - and that my friends is the kinda band they are!

Suprisingly, for a band that composes songs at the drop of hat on stage, they actually had the time to pen down stuff to create an album.

And they gave us a full blast of their originals last night. Some of the songs were really good - "For Luke", "Mr. Fancypants" and "Little Bit Of This" got me and a sizable section to head-bang.
The "Marching Song" was a very good song too and Sid, the vox actually started marching on the stage... well there obviously wasnt much place to do any serious marching - and he ended up looking like a duck waddling around.

Biggest crowd-puller of their's was "SSG - Smoked Some Ganja"... nice reggae beat. That song got the non-rock lovers jumping up and down.
I personally liked the songs "Sometimes" and "All Is Lost" the best. The former, a good rock-reggae song, not too hard but just abt enuff to allow u to swing ur head around like a dummy.
And "All Is Lost" is actually a very well-composed power ballad. That was indeed a nice suprise.

Their vocalist Siddarth, is BTW the original drummer for ZERO. And he has a superb voice. Wonder why he stuck around so long behind the drum-sets. Anyway, he's crazy too, and just abt the most talkative front-man for any Indian rock band that I've seen. Man, he talks more than Nitin (Parikrama's lead vox)... but he's a fun guy.
The most funniest part of the gig? When Sid suddenly climbed up and stood upon the bar and started singing!!
Bassist Johan and guitarist Meghashyam (another ZERO guitarist - he with the yellow jester hat @ the ZERO gig last month, for those of you who were there) were tight and impressive.
And Gino - no words to describe the way he played. This guy was awesome. It wasnt just the drum solos that were so catching, he got me with the little bits and pieces he drummed during each song. He is a monster drummer.

Complaints? Well, at times the impromptu jams did start to sound the same after a few songs. They need to work on that.

But having said that, Helga's Fun Castle lived up to their name - 100% unadulterated fun!

ZERO @ SPE - and I'm head-banging as usual!!

Great show by a great band - ZERO, supposedly India's best live act. And I have no reasons to doubt that fact after the sweat-dripping-energy-sapping show they played at SOMEPLACE ELSE, the mecca for rock music in Kolkata.

And what added to the fun at this gig was that I got to share the head-banging limelight with great pals and A-class guitarists, Sukanti Roy and John Bose (belonging to Kolkata's top-notch alternative band CASSINI's DIVISION)... so basicaly I spent my evening head-banging and MOSHING (well sorta) with them right up there at the 1st row!! Awesome! No better place at a hard rock gig than the front row!!

Abt the performance - well ZERO were definately a treat to watch! And unlike the last time (circa 2004), this show they played most of their originals - nice change that!

I have to be honest here. I hadnt heard much of their original stuff before this show (barring PSP - which is undoubtedly the best headbanger on the Indian rock circuit) - and I didnt find them very interesting, apart from a few here and there. But I bought their CD (was available at the SPE counter) - and now that I am back home listening to it, I can truthfully say that they really do have a pretty good set of songs. Folks look out for
"MARIACHI" and "OLD MAN SITTING ON THE BACK PORCH" and the real heavy "HATE IN EM" and some song which I think was called "LUCILLE" (not sure) - the last one isnt on their album.

Their covers were extremely well performed as well. Special mention: "The Banana Song" originally sung by Harry Belafonte!! Also provided with a hard-rock tinge were covers like "Come Together" by the Beatles song (or Aerosmith - since they sang that too) - their version of "La Bamba" rocked as well - and last but not the least, the crowd pleaser "Roxanne" by the POLICE. Anyway, so much for covers!

Special mention for their guest drummer Geno Banks, who was filling in for regular thumper Siddharth Couto. My God! He was a monster on the drum-set. Absolutely mind-boggling performance by him. Bobby on the bass and Rajeev on vox were cool too.

I have a sore back and stiff neck. Too much headbanging @ my AGE is injurious to my health! AND a new one - I think I somehow miraculously managed to pull a hamstring down there near my thigh during the show... wonder how I managed to do that
Anyway - GREAT show. Zero has evolved tremendously from when I last saw them play at SPE. And that is good.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

THEM CLONES... the night SPE crumbled to dust

SOMEPLACE ELSE - the mecca of rock music in Kolkata... the only place where u can chill out with a cool drink and listen to quality music at the same time.

SOMEPLACE ELSE - the only place where the best and most intense live performances take place in the city.

And that my friends, was the reason why SPE decided to host THEM CLONES, the new icons of the alternative scene in India. Their music knocked me out cold, and their intensity pounded me to smithereens. This was no live performance for the weak-hearted.

Anyway, I'll just go straight to what they played - an alternate/heavy metal lovers delight:
1. PEARL JAM - Animal, Alive, Jeremy
2. SCORPIONS - Rock You Like A Hurricane
3. U2 - Vertigo, (Pride) In The Name Of Love
4. COLDPLAY - Yellow
5. A few originals - In The Name Of God, Wait For Me, Zephyretta (a few others I cant remember)
6. DISTURBED - Stupify
7. RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE - Bulls On Parade, Killing In The Name, Wake Up

And yes, I guess there were a few more I cant remember. For me the highlights were definitely the RATM, Pearl Jam and Disturbed covers - ESPECIALLY THE RATM covers - I screamed my voice hoarse and sang the loudest during each of these songs. And man, DID I head bang!! Thank God for Prithwish, the lead vocalist of THEM CLONES - he poured a bottle of water on us people to cool us down

Excellent show - but there were a few hick-ups, most notably the fuses giving out, not once - but twice - during their performance. And the 2nd one was during the RATM cover of "Wake Up" - unfortunately they didnt finish the song after normalcy was restored - and that also unfortunately was their last song.

I was amazed by the turn out - I thought alternative/heavy metal was dead in Kolkata - seems not, which is a great thing. There was a very knowledgable crowd out there. Its always a pleasure to head-bang with people who know their music, and not with fucking pseudos who head-bang just for the sake of head-banging!!

Anyway - I am happy, and I am grinning like a Cheshire Cat, despite all my body aches and aching eardrums and hoarse throat. THEM CLONES are a brilliant band!! Top-notch gig - hope they come to Kolkata (and SOMEPLACE ELSE) more often.